Trans Asia Music Meeting 2016
Last weekend I attended the ‘Trans Asia Music Meeting 2016’ in Naha. This is an international trade fair, conference and showcase of music from Okinawa. Its purpose is to make relationships with other Asian promoters and producers and to help expand Okinawan music around the world.
On Saturday there was a report from last year’s WOMEX in Budapest and then a Welcome Reception. On Sunday, there was a keynote speech by music critic Paul Fisher from the UK whose Far Side Music activities have helped greatly in raising awareness of Asian music in the West. It was several years since Paul and I last met in London so it was good to be able to meet and talk with him again. This was followed by a presentation session by producers and promoters from South Korea, China, Mongolia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The showcase which followed was spread across the two venues of Sakurazaka Theatre and Sakurazaka Central. The music covered a wide variety of genres, some of these directly connected with Okinawan roots and others much less so. The artists appearing were Kachimba4, Sakishima Meeting, Chihiro Kamiya, Maltese Rock, Awich, Hirara, the you, Black Wax, and MKR Project.
Between us Paul and I managed to see at least something of all the artists with much hopping to and fro between venues. I was especially impressed with Chihiro Kamiya who performed an immaculate set which balanced some of her own compositions with several wonderful versions of traditional Okinawan songs. She has matured and developed tremendously since I first listened to her several years ago.
Also worthy of special mention was Hirara, a singer and sanshin player from the Miyako Islands. In complete musical contrast the charismatic poet and rapper Awich was stunningly good with a powerful set accompanied by an electric band. MKR Project’s experimental blending of disparate elements was compelling again, and the evening was rounded off with a show by the energetic Kachimba4. Their music is almost entirely influenced by Cuba rather than Okinawa but they were very well received by an enthusiastic audience.